Why hoteliers need to safeguard personal information

For those who read my columns, funding terrorism is not something I would normally address. However, as I write this (months before publication), it is the 20th anniversary of the falling of the Twin Towers. So, I took the liberty of using the occasion to share some information. 

I have a good friend, Christopher Wilder of Moor Insights and Strategy, who is a true hero. For security reasons, all I will say is that he has put his life on the line to save other lives. Today, he is a bestselling author, a cybersecurity expert and a provider of global physical security. With his permission, I adapted part of his work to understand how terrorist and counterfeit networks are funded and operate.

Experts estimate the market for counterfeit goods worldwide is over $520 billion and accounts for nearly 3 percent of the global economy. In many cases, criminals work directly with the originating factories to “white label” an identical product. From there, criminals set up clean companies to purchase the newly labeled products that typically come from jurisdictions lenient on “know your customer” constraints. These criminals rely on online websites using social media and marketing strategies to connect with audiences.  

Once established, terrorists leverage a combination of online and offline channels to influence customer behavior. These channels provide cheap and easy access to counterfeit, inferior or stolen items and the terrorists are masters at marketing them.

What can you do to help? 

  1. A professional website does not equate to a legitimate business. If there is a company you want to do business with that is online, check them out thoroughly. If you receive a professional-looking email, hit the reply button and then check out the domain address.
  2. If a deal is too good to be true, it probably is. No one really sells $2,500 purses or sunglasses for $100.
  3. Don’t fall for “click bait” in an email, text or on social media. If those “miracle pills” really are miracles, most likely they are not going to be free in return for shipping and handling. 
  4. Use a credit card with a low limit online that is easy to cancel. If you are going to shop online with questionable/unknown companies, don’t use your regular credit card. 
  5. Freeze your credit to stop new accounts from being opened under your name. It is a bit of a hassle if you want a new card or get a loan but well worth it. 

Regardless of who is on the other end of the channel, you can never be too careful with your personal information. Plus, you might even be helping prevent terrorism. 

Frank Wolfe is the CEO of Hospitality Financial and Technology Professionals (HFTP).